Birding in Delhi

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

This page is a brief introduction to birding in and around Delhi, one of the finest capital cities anywhere in the world in terms of the variety of its bird life.

Here's a brief list of the best-known birding sites around town.

Sultanpur National Park

A large artificial wetland set amidst what is now agricultural land in Haryana, south-west of Delhi.

My page about Sultanpur has more details.

Okhla Bird Sanctuary

A large section of the banks of the Yamuna river as it passes through Delhi provide a swathe of reed-bed habitat, open water, and shallow mud banks.

My page about Okhla has more details.

The Delhi Ridge

The Delhi ridge is a northern extension of the ancient Aravali range that runs in a roughly north-south line through Delhi. While it was once a 35km-long expanse of forest, the habitat has been severely fragmented and only four small pockets now remain. The northern ridge is near the Delhi University north campus, the central ridge is near Dhaula Kuan, the south-central ridge is near the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and the southern ridge is near Tughlaqabad fort.

The habitat is extensively degraded and encroached upon, but it is still a good area for a variety of both resident and migrant forest birds.

Asola Wildlife Sanctuary

A large expanse of dry scrub forest at the tail end of the Delhi ridge, just south of the Tughlaqabad fort. A difficult habitat to bird in, but the best place to see species like the Sirkeer Malkoha, Common Babbler, Yellow-eyed Babbler, Rufous-fronted Prinia, and Orphean Warbler.

Other locations

Two other potentially rewarding sites are the Delhi Zoo, whose many open ponds tend to attract wild waterfowl and are one of the few places where the Common Kingfisher is regular; and the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, near the northern edge of the city, which is one of the most reliable sites for the Red-crested Pochard in winter.

Apart from the major birding destinations, the city is dotted with parks and gardens—from major landmarks to tiny squares of lawn hidden between highrise buildings. Many of these are good for a morning or afternoon of birding and perhaps even a surprise or two. Sanjay Van in Vasant Kunj, the Deer Park in Hauz Khas, Lodhi Gardens, the archaeological park in Mehrauli, and Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri are some of our major parks.

The Delhibird network

Delhi has an active community of bird-watchers who use the Delhibird and Delhibirdpix mailing lists to communicate and share photographs. The list has members from across the country (and elsewhere), and is usually very helpful to novices and experts alike. Feel free to ask on the list for advice about your itinerary, local conditions at some site, or help with identifying something you saw. Trip reports (in particular), photographs, and other relevant information are always welcome too.

Members of the Delhibird groups organise "Sunday bird walks" throughout the year (to these and other locations), and anyone is always welcome to join. The selected location and other details are usually posted to the list a few days in advance.

About me

I lived in Delhi between 1993 and 2013, and have been birding in most corners of the city. With sufficient notice, I may be available as a professional guide to small groups of interested birders on day trips in and around Delhi.

Feel free to write to me if you have any questions or suggestions.